It's been a while since we've had a guest columnist over here on the old DB. Well, I hope it was worth the wait as The Duke checks in with all his filmic wisdom and fury.
I originally thought The Duke was some kind Northern Ireland film critic prodigy. It was only later that I learned he was a little bit of an everything-prodigy.
The Duke resides at Mondo Irlando.
Any serious student of motion-film will tell you, should you bother to ask, that most likely, the only thing lacking in, say, La Règle du jeu or Roma, città aperta, is that there were nowhere near enough shots of folks getting hit in the face with elbows and knees.
Any half-arsed motherfucker can punch a drug-lord or shove a boot into the teeth of an international terrorist, but it takes someone special for to maybe bound through the air and elbow a man so hard on the head that the very skull cracks under the weight. And then again and again, on account of the really cool bits get replays.
Ong-Bak, Prachya Pinkaew's 2003 opus of limb-snapping and head-crushing, has more elbow and knee action than any flick this side of, say, Brief Encounter, with its famous scene wherein Celia Johnson jumped the hell off a train-roof and shoved her right elbow into Trevor Howard's yap so hard his shoulders split the fuck in two.
It does for elbows and knees what Say Anything did for big-arse tape-deck things held above a fella's head in the hope that a lady-friend might, by some miraculous development, find some horrible Peter Gabriel recording sexually-arousing. I ain't ever in my life seen elbows and knees utilized with such artistic flair since back in the day when Da Vinci was scribbling all over a buncha yellowed note-pads, back before he turned out to be Mary Magdalene or whatever the fuck that book yacks on about.
In case you didn't know, what Ong-Bak concerns itself with, is something along the lines of this shit right here;
A young fella by the name of Ting leaves his tranquil rural village for to head off into the seedy lady-boy infested streets of Bangkok, that he might recover the head of a Buddha statue that some criminal type has done gone stolen.
He meets up with a fella by the name of Dirty Balls, who has understandably changed his name to George in the days since he knew Ting, and the two of them get involved in awe-inspiring set-piece after awe-inspiring set-piece.
Also, there's a lady who appears to be Dirty Balls' lover, but I don't recall that anyone ever confirms my suspicion. Put it down to bitter experience that's gone an warped a fella's view of the world, but what The Duke would guess is that if a lass is spending a lot of time in a fella's company, even a fella with ridiculous bleached hair and a name like Dirty Balls, she's probably closer to him than she'll admit. But who knows, maybe they just hang out and scam gangsters, and maybe never even once got naked in the same room. Thankfully it don't matter a frosted fuck, since it's all about Ting.
Ting, it transpires, is something of a motherfucking genius type when it comes to the art of Muay Thai boxing, i.e., boxing that involves feet, elbows, knees, tables, taxi cabs, in addition to the ol' left-hook an such. Turns out this is handy as all hell, since every corner these folks turn in their quest for the Buddha head, there's a buncha low-down sonsa bitches ready for to chase them down streets or break stuff over heads or shove them into an underground fighting den.
Ong-Bak is wonderful. In these days of CGI assisted pseudo-carnage, there ain't no words that don't involve fuck for to describe how amazing it is seeing folks genuinely getting flung off of trees the size of houses. Folks landing on the dusty ground, and the thud of spine-on-dirt, that right there kicks the pixellated arse of any number of Matrixes or Underworlds or Constantines.
It doesn't have a plot worth a flying gypsie's fuck, it has a truly abominable techno soundtrack, it has some unspeakably horrifying hair-cuts, but dig this shit right here, would you ever?
1 - It's the best searching for a missing head flick since that Peckinpah number about Alfredo Garcia, and violent and gritty as that picture may have been, it had not one scene that I can remember all about maybe Warren Oates starts flinging his legs around in the direction of some filthy criminal bastards, and all the while his legs on fire.
2 - It has Tony Jaa.
This fella is a motherfucking revelation, bounding and jumping and kneeing and elbowing and punching and kicking in a manner I ain't ever seen since that Jackie Chan flick were he did all the crazy shit with the ladders. This Jaa motherfucker is incredible.
He don't need no wires or CGI or stunt-doubles or special effects, on account of he IS the special effect.
He leaps through tables, he runs up the side of walls, he gets no end of props smashed over his head, he jumps up in the air and slams his knees around a fellas head, elbowing the fuck out his skull, then leaps off in time for to give a swift kick to the teeth before the bastard falls back in a pool of his own gunk.
He leaps and falls with abandon.
3 - It has two of the best chase sequences I've ever seen in my damn life, let The Duke state for the vinyl.
The first is like some shit out of a platform game from back in the days when you just ran from one side of the screen to the other jumping over shit without having to worry about any kind of plot or the threat of a cut-scene all about The Government every ten minutes.
I half expected magic rings or some shit to crop up, or anthromorphized mushrooms.
Jaa just starts running along a street, being chased by a whole fuckload of gangster types, and next thing anyone knows any and all obstacles that could be flung in his way are flung with nary a thought for sense or neo-realist leanings. If you thought there weren't no room in this day and age for a scene all about a fella has to jump through strategically placed hoops of barbed wire in the middle of a crowded street, or bound over any amount of stalls and tables, or jump the fuck over a buncha motorbikes that appear from out of nowhere, then you need to think the hell again.
The second involves a buncha three-wheeled taxi cabs. I ain't ever seen taxi's get smashed up with such giddy invention.
4 - It has the most memorable limb-snapping since Irreversible, and it won't make you feel like a filthy scum-soaked bastard fresh out the gutter with a crack-pipe in one hand and a diseased penis in the other.
5 - It's the flick Kickboxer 2 coulda been.
There ain't much in the world for to get a man jumpin up and down before a movie screen like the sight of a young fella suddenly beating the frazzled fuck out a man three times his size, and all in the presence of a crowd hopped to the last nut on bloodthirsty abandon.
Kickboxer nailed that sensation right there, but for whatever reason, Kickboxer 2 just didn't deliver that same kickbox to the giddy glands.
And if you thought Kickboxer 3 - The Art Of War might've made up for it, you can think the fuck again.
This here Ong-Bak malarkey, though, it gets it perfect. When it flings Tony Jaa into the middle of a fight with some demented maniac screeching about "I'll kill your guts out your head!!!!" or whatever, the whole motherfucking thing scales the sortsa heights you never thought you'd see scaled this side of Bloodsport.
6 - It's got great baddies.
Whilst Ong-Bak lacks a Tong Po, it's got plenty substitute ne'er-do-wells for to get a man sneering and hissing, best of all being a gangster head-honcho fella who sits in his wheelchair smoking through a hole in his neck and giving out orders for to kill motherfuckers left and right with one of those voice-box machines you get on account of all the smoking.
Then there's the crazy bastard who wants nothing more than to smash chairs, tables, bottles over Tony Jaa's hide.
Ong-Bak fucking rules, is all there is to it. Tell you the truth, I wasn't expecting a terrible lot. I'm a bit actioned-out to tell you the whole truth and nothing but. How many times can you see a yap get smacked before you start losing interest? Not many more, is the answer.
Ong-Bak, however, makes a fella feel like he ain't ever seen a lip get split ever once before in his life. It's also incredibly beautiful, like the opening tree-climbing contest, or the wonderful moment when Ting discovers a whole host of underwater Buddhas.
It ain't got much more to offer than Tony Jaa and a couple great characters here and there, but that's much, much more than anybody's ever gonna need.
It's the kung-fu flick equivalent of Guinea Pig - Mermaid In A Manhole. That flick had some sort of narrative hidden away someplace, but really, all it wanted to do was show a mermaid puking out puss and maggots over a bath-tub for forty minutes. Regardless of how flimsy the A to B may have been, you didn't forget that shit in a hurry, and I dare say only the most chronic amnesiacs will forgot how Tony Jaa put a fella's leg between his own, jumped into the air and landed with all his force on the knee.